TODAY -

Tupul landslide: An impact of climate change

K Rajeshwar Sharma *

 The scene of devastation after a catastrophic landslide struck at Tupul in Noney district :: June 30th 2022
The scene of devastation after a catastrophic landslide struck at Tupul in Noney district on June 30th 2022 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



Landslides are mass movements of soil or rocks along the slopes of mountains. As rains are one of the causes of landslides, they occur more often than not during the rainy season whether it is in the Himalayas or elsewhere.

These mountain ranges are prone to landslides. Just as it happens almost every year along the Imphal-Dimapur Highway, train services and vehicular traffics are often disrupted for hours or even days in Darjeeling as well as in the Nilgiris because of landslides during the months of July, August and September.

The Nilgiri Blue Mountain Train that runs between Mettupalayam near Coimbatore, to Udhagamandalam or Ooty, is the living witness to these landslides. So are the truckers that transport goods to Manipur along the two National Highways.

Unlike the past few years, the South West monsoon arrived early this year with all its fury during the month of June that triggered floods and landslides. The weatherman recorded 435mm of rainfall in Manipur in June alone.

Subsequently, in the wee hours of 30th June, a massive landslide occurred at Marangching, where the Tupul Railway station is being constructed, in Noney district of the State claiming forty-eight lives, and destroying railway infrastructure and many houses.

The city of Imphal, though proud of its Kangla Fort, Ima Keithel and War Cemetery, is ashamed of its clogged narrow drains that cause flash floods with an overnight rainfall that lasts for days with intermittent breaks. In the middle of June, some sections of Sega Road and large areas around the road were flooded with overnight rainfall.

In every neighborhood of Imphal, it has been the same old story every year when the monsoon arrives. Governments of all political hues come and go but the plight of the people remain unchanged year after year.

Shrugging it off, an official said with indifference, ‘Blame it on climate change.’ Perhaps the culprit could be climate change which, according to scientists, can be seen in the erratic changes in rainfall pattern, violent cyclonic storms and heat waves taking place in every continent.

Climate change is an offshoot of global warming. It is a shift in the average weather conditions due to rising temperatures all over the world. Erratic rainfalls, heat waves and cyclonic storms are some of the ugly weather conditions of climate change.

Since the middle of the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution began, world temperature has been rising steadily. Our planet Earth is 1.2 degree Celsius warmer than it was in 1850. It is due to burning fossil fuel such as coal, petrol, diesel etc, and deforestation.

In order to get energy, humans have been using coal to generate electric power. Petrol and diesel have been used to drive several types of vehicles. Airplanes are flown with large quantity of petroleum product.

While burning these fossil fuels to produce electricity and run the engines, carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the greenhouse gases, is emitted into the atmosphere, and it envelops the Earth trapping the Sun’s heat. Subsequently, the Earth’s temperature increases. This phenomenon is known as Greenhouse Effects.

Carbon footprint can be traced by examining tree rings and polar ice as they record changes in atmospheric chemistry. It has been shown that carbon, particularly from fossil burning, has risen significantly since the second half of the 19th century. It is estimated that the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has risen by 50%.

In its report in 2021, the Climate Action Tracker group predicted that the world could be 2.4 degree Celsius warmer by the end of the 21st century unless further action is taken. However, some scientists are more pessimistic. They fear that by the same time, global warming could be higher than 4 degree Celsius if nothing is done to stop it.

With the global warming of 1.2 degree Celsius more, the world has witnessed extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and devastating heat waves sweeping across Europe and North America. These extreme weather events are the impacts of climate change which has different effects in different parts of the world.

Some places in North West India are being scorched by heat waves with temperature rising up to 48 degree Celsius while the North Eastern States are battered by heavy rainfalls causing widespread flooding in Assam and massive landslide in Manipur.

Further warming beyond 1.5 degree Celsius might turn some countries in the Middle East into uninhabitable barren deserts. In some other regions, the opposite could happen with extreme rainfall causing large scale flooding and landslides of greater intensity than the ones that happened in Assam and Manipur recently. The United Kingdom and Europe are likely to have extreme weather conditions.

Some African countries could be devastated by droughts and famines while some island Nations such as Maldives in the Indian Ocean, and low lying cities like Mumbai will disappear under rising seas that rose 20 cm in the last century. Climate change affects everyone, every animal and every living being no matter where he or she is on this planet Earth. It threatens human civilizations.

There is an urgent need to tackle climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen into the atmosphere. However, no country can tackle climate change alone. It can only be tackled by working together among countries. In a landmark agreement in Paris in 2015, many countries pledged to keep global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius.

In 2021, at the Glasgow Summit on climate change better known as COP26, almost all the countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as it is possible by using less fossil fuels, and using more renewable energy from the Sun and wind. However, the United States Supreme Court in its recent landmark ruling has curtailed some of the powers of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

President Joe Biden called it a “devastating decision” that could undermine the efforts to tackle the crisis of climate change. Yuval Noah Harari, a renowned historian, warns, “…….unless we dramatically cut the emission of greenhouse gases in the next twenty years, average global temperatures will increase by more than 20C, resulting in expanding deserts, disappearing ice caps, rising oceans and more frequent extreme weather events such as hurricanes and typhoons. These changes in turn will disrupt agricultural production, inundate cities, make much of the world uninhabitable and send hundreds of millions of refugees in search of new homes.”


* K Rajeshwar Sharma wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on July 10 2022.



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